AFF 2023 Review: Award winning Documentary Home is a Hotel Arrives in Austin

Filmmaker Kevin Duncan Wong’s award-winning documentary, Home Is a Hotel, will be offered twice at the Austin Film Festival and is a must-see for anyone who has seen or known of individuals who struggle with homelessness and housing affordability. Over the past few years, homelessness has been an issue across the United States and, most certainly, in Texas, especially the state capital. Home is a Hotel won the 2023 Audience Award and the 2023 Golden Gate Award Bay Area Documentary Feature (Best Documentary Feature) at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. Wong is the director, producer, and co-cinematographer.

One decades-old solution for the housing crisis in San Francisco has been the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units. The filmmaker presents stories from the varied and diverse residents living in the tiny one-room units and over five years, the audience learns how this has impacted them. Each of their stories is important and moving as they relay their life stories. This character-driven, verité documentary takes us into their units and how they have made them home, some as tiny as 80 square feet and costing hundreds of dollars.

Each story moved me. Everyone is trying to survive and make life better for themselves and their children. I liked the diverse selection of the residents participating in the documentary. There is an immigrant single mom in Chinatown with a little girl (as well as elder parents in their unit). Through the footage, the audience will learn what happened in her life. There is an elderly Latina with limited eyesight who still lives independently in her unit for over a decade and yet faces harassment. A divorced couple co-parent their 6-year-old son and are in recovery to stay committed to their child’s upbringing. A young artist who has been out of his mother’s home since he was a teen is very talented and remains determined to pursue his craft despite all the challenges he has faced. A 30-something mother of a young son works as an advocate to help others with similar needs and does as much as possible to reunite with her 16-year-old daughter, who left foster care for the street life.

I tried not to spoil too many of their stories in this review so that the audience members will see and hear the full facts of their reality and how they make it one day at a time. Some sobering facts are provided at the end about how great the need is and how few from the list can move to a better housing situation.

The filmmaking team includes co-director/producer Kar Yin Tham, co-director/producer Todd Sills, editor Kristina Motwani, cinematographer Seng Chen, associate editor Susannah Smith, composer Catherine Joy, consulting producer Sasha Hauswald, associate producer Maria Mealla, and associate producer/additional camera Martin Rossetti.

The film’s schedule is Sunday, October 29, 12:45 p.m. at the Hideout Theater, and Tuesday, October 31, 4:00 p.m. at the Galaxy Theater. It is also scheduled to be at the San Diego Asian Film Festival on November 8 and at the New Filmmakers Los Angeles DocuSlate on November 19.


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